Bachman-Turner Overdrive-Street Action and Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights.

For Bachman-Turner Overdrive, their seventh studio album Street Action, which  was released in February 1978 was the start of a new era for the band. Street Action was the first album not to feature Randy Bachman. 

He had left the band after the release of Freeways in February 1977. Initially Randy Bachman intended to disband Bachman-Turner Overdrive temporarily, while he worked on a solo album. Soon, it became apparent that this wasn’t going to solve the internal strife within the band. 

The rest of Bachman-Turner Overdrive wanted to change direction musically, in reaction to criticism that recent albums had been much of a muchness. What the rest of the band wanted to do, was change direction. That wasn’t going to happen  with Randy Bachman in the band, so he left the band he had cofounded.

Replacing Randy Bachman was April Wine’s former bassist Jim Clench. Bassist Fred Turner switched to rhythm guitar while Blair Thornton became the lead guitarist. It was decided that the newly recruited Jim Clench and Fred Turner would share lead vocal duties. Despite the band featuring drummer Robbie Bachman, the band were forced to embark upon a planned tour as BTO. This was going to cause problems.

Many people wouldn’t know who BTO were, and wouldn’t realise this was essentially Bachman-Turner Overdrive. However, that name couldn’t be used, because the group had entered into an agreement with Randy Bachman when he left the band. He wanted to retain the rights to his surname for his solo career. 

This meant that the rest of the band had no option but to tour as BTO. However, this came at a  price. With Randy Bachman retaining the rights to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the rest of the group had to buy the rights to BTO and the associated logo. It was a costly business, and one that had to pay off as BTO embarked upon their recording career.

The first album that BTO would record and release was Street Action in February 1978. It was followed in March 1979 by Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights. These two albums, Street Action and Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights were recently remastered and reissued by BGO Records on one CD, and document this new chapter in BTO’s career.

Street Action.

Having secured the rights to the BTO name, now the band could begin work on what was their seventh studio album. This time around Jim Clench, Blair Thornton, Fred Turner and Robbie Bachman penned nine new tracks which would become Street Action.

BTO headed to Can Base Studios, in Vancouver, Canada where they would record Street Action. Drummer and percussionist Robbie Bachman, bassist Jim Clench and rhythm guitarist Fred Turner joined lead guitarist Blair Thornton. As had been agreed, Jim Clench and Fred Turner share lead vocal duties. Rather than bring in an outside producer, BTO made the decision to produce the album themselves.

The four members of BTO knew the new sound that they were trying to create. They wanted to move away from the pop that featured on recent albums. It would be replaced by a much heavier, rockier sound. This BTO hoped would appeal to a much wider audience, especially the younger record buyers who enjoyed heavy metal. They were BTO’s new target audience.

Once the sessions at Can Base Studios were complete, BTO had succeeded in their mission to record a much heavier, rockier sounding album. This was very different from previous albums, and had the potential to introduce BTO’s music to a different, younger audience.

That became apparent from the opening bars of I’m In Love, which featured a very different band to the one lead by Randy Bachman. By comparison to other tracks, I’m In Love and later, For Love were concessions to BTO’s long-standing fan, but had widespread appeal. One of the album’s highlights was Down The Road, showcased BTO’s new, heavier sound. This continues on It Takes A Lot Of People and A Long Time For A Little While which features some of Blair Thornton finest rocky guitar licks. Street Action is another of the heaviest tracks, while Madison Avenue features BTO as they combine their old and new sounds on a radio friendly song. You’re Gonna Miss Me was a rocky anthem-in-waiting, while World Is Waiting For A Love Song was firmly aimed at a younger audience who had grownup listening to rock and heavy metal. BTO had transformed their sound in the space of one album.

This was a risky business, given the new sound might alienate BTO’s longstanding fans. However, it was a risk BTO wanted to take in an attempt to return to the upper reaches of the charts. This was where BTO had spent a good part of their career. However, when Freeways had stalled at seventy in the US Billboard 200, most of BTO realised that something had to change. The result of this change was Street Action.

While Street Action was well received by the many critics, the four members awaited the reaction of record buyers when the album was released in February 1978. BTO watched as Street Action stalled at a lowly 130 in the US Billboard 200. Things didn’t get any better when Down The Road was released as a single. It reached just ninety-one in the US Billboard 100. For the new lineup of BTO, this was a disastrous start to the latest chapter in their career. Street Action was the least successful album of BTO’s seven album career. Something would have to change.

Rock ’N’ Roll Nights.

When work began on the followup album to Street Action, a decision had been made to bring onboard various songwriters from outside of BTO. This was the first of the changes as BTO began work on Rock ’N’ Roll Nights.

Although outside songwriters would contribute towards BTO’s eighth album, members of the band still contributed towards Rock ’N’ Roll Nights. Fred Turner penned Heartaches, while Jim Clench contributed Rock and Roll Nights and End of the Line. Jim Clench teamed up with Blair Thornton to write Heaven Tonight. The pair then wrote Here She Comes Again with Prism’s Jim Vallance. He also contributed Jamaica and Rock and Roll Hell, and cowrote Amelia Earnert with Canadian songwriter David Simmonds. The other song on the album came from another Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams, who wrote Wastin’ Time. These songs would become Rock ’N’ Roll Nights, which was recorded at Mushroom Studios, in Vancouver, Canada.

While BTO had produced Street Action, this time Jim Vallance took charge of production. Whether this was BTO’s choice, or was a suggestion by Mercury Records is unclear. Mercury Records must have been getting nervous given neither Freeways nor Street Action sold in vast quantities. With this in mind, work began on Rock ’N’ Roll Nights.

BTO’s rhythm section featured drummer and percussionist Robbie Bachman, bassist Jim Clench and rhythm guitarist Fred Turner. Blair Thornton played lead guitarist Blair Thornton, while Jim Clench and Fred Turner continued to share lead vocal duties. The only difference was the presence of producer Jim Vallance in the control room. He would play his part in the next chapter in the BTO story Rock ’N’ Roll Nights.

When BTO had completed Rock ’N’ Roll Nights, it became apparent that the decision to bring onboard producer Jim Vallance had paid off. The album opened with the driving anthemic sound of Jamaica, which would later be covered by Rick Springfield, albeit with slightly different lyrics. This set the bar high for the rest of the album. 

Heartache was a rocky ballad, where harmonies proved the perfect foil for a vocal powerhouse as the song headed into anthem territory. Heaven Tonight was a spirited, rocky track that should’ve appealed to BTO’s old and new fans. Rock And Roll Nights which Kiss would later cover, was one of the album’s  highlights. So was  Wastin’ Time, where Bryan Adams doesn’t spare the hooks. It’s tailor made for BTO. It’s a similar case with Here She Comes Again, which owes a debt of gratitude to You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. End Of The Line is a melancholy ballad, that’s another of the album’s highlights. Rock And Roll Hell is a stomping anthem that features BTO at their rockiest. Very different is the closing track, Amelia Earhart. It’s a carefully crafted, melodic and FM friendly song that should’ve appealed to BTO’s fans old and new. It was a similar case with Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights.

Things were looking good when critics hailed Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights as one of BTO’s finest albums of recent years. BTO promoted Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights by playing Heartaches and Jamaica on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. However, by then, disaster had struck for rock bands everywhere.

Disco was at the peak of its popularity when BTO released Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights in March 1979. If the album had been released five months later, disco would’ve been dead. By then, BTO had released Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights, which stalled at 165 in the US Billboard 200. Only 350,000 copies of Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights sold, making it BTO’s least successful album. When Heartaches was released as a single, it reached just sixty in in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-two in BTO’s native Canada. For BTO, this was just rubbed salt into the wounds.

Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights was, without doubt, the best album BTO had released in recent years. The decision to bring onboard outside songwriters, including Jim Vallance who also produced the album had paid off. Sadly, Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights was released at the wrong time.

With the disco at the peak of its popularity, many albums were being overlooked by record buyers. One of these albums was Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights, which was the last great album that BTO would release.

Sadly, Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights was the last album that BTO released on Mercury Records where the group had spent their entire career. BTO split-up after the release of Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights. Their legacy was eight studio albums, one live album and a best of BTO.

Five years later, and a new lineup of BTO lead by Randy Bachman returned with their ninth studio album Bachman–Turner Overdrive. The only other original member of BTO was Fred Turner. Apart from that, it was an almost unrecognisable lineup of BTO that featured on Bachman–Turner Overdrive. When the album was released in September 1984, it failed to make any impact on the charts. This time, it was the end of the road for BTO.

Never again would BTO release another studio album. BTO would reunite and tour, but never returned to the studio. Ironically, the last great album BTO released Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights, doesn’t feature founding member Randy Bachman who left the band after Freeways.

BTO only released two albums in the post-Randy Bachman era, Street Action and Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights which were recently remastered and reissued on one CD by BGO Records. Both albums show a different side to BTO, as they reinvent themselves as a hard rocking band. That’s apparent on Street Action, which is an underrated album, while Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights was the last great album BTO released.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive-Street Action and Rock ‘N’ Roll Nights.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: